Drivers will pay higher tolls on new Mario M. Cuomo bridge

Motorists driving over the old Tappan Zee Bridge will be slapped with a toll hike come 2021, state officials announced Thursday.

The state Thruway Authority approved its first toll increase since 2010 for the new Mario M. Cuomo bridge to help pay for the $4 billion span over the Hudson River connecting Westchester and Rockland counties, north of New York City.

“So with most spans of the bridge open and system-wide implementation of cashless tolling in 2022, now is the time to begin consideration of an adjustment process,” said Matt Howard, the TA’s chief financial officer during the board of directors meeting in Albany.

“It will allow us to responsibly meet our future operational and capital needs, and support our debt service obligations as well ensuring that we continue to provide a reliable service to our patrons.”

Officials unveiled a plan detailing the increases: for E-ZPass drivers operating passenger costs, rates would increase from $4.75 to $5.25 in 2021, and to $5.75 in 2022.

Drivers who don’t have E-ZPass and pay by mail will face an increase from the current $5 to $6.83 by 2021 and $7.48 in 2022. Plus, these drivers will also see a $2 surcharge on their monthly bill — a fiscal reminder to get the EZPass device.

Truckers will see a boost as well — presently five axle trucks spend $32.75 during peak hours, but will see a jump to $42.90 in 2021 and $55.77 by 2022.

But locals from Westchester and Rockland counties will be cashing in, as they will see their $4.75 E-ZPass fee frozen through 2022. These drivers will have to prove their residency via car registration addresses.

The Thruway will transition to system wide cashless tolling in 2022 — right now 77 percent of drivers have E-ZPass throughout the state.

Some 86.7 percent of drivers who use the Mario M. Cuomo are already E-ZPass drivers.

The proposal must first go through a public comment period before the 2021 rate changes take effect.

Critics, like the Empire Center’s EJ McMahon call the hike “overdue.” “The schedule proposed today represents a continuing attempt to minimize and postpone toll increases for as long as possible,” he said, adding the TU hasn’t yet presented a full picture.

“They are still kicking the can down the road. Even now, they have yet to present a full and detailed financing plan for the new Tappan Zee crossing,” he added, noting toll hikes past 2022 are likely on the horizon.

“When fully phased in, the toll hikes will generate just under 100 million dollars annually in additional revenue for the Thruway Authority—which isn’t enough to cover the agency’s own projected increase in debt service costs.”

New York State Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy dubbed the proposal a “vanity tax” sent by Gov. Cuomo.

“Only in Cuomo’s New York do taxpayers have to shell out extra money for his namesake bridge,” he said. “This is nothing more than Prince Andrew’s vanity tax. We are going to need another bridge to accommodate the millions of New Yorkers who are leaving the state under this disastrous tax and spend Governor.”

But others, like good government group Reinvent Albany’s John Kaheny called it “a bargain” compared to other MTA crossings’ sky high costs—for comparison, the Goethals Bridge and George Washington Bridges both charge $12.50 for standard EZPass passenger car rates.